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duminică, 26 februarie 2017

Scrisoare catre Face Book, februarie 2017

Mai jos aveti, integral, scrisoarea pe care le-am trimis-o celor de la Facebook in legatura cu spinoasa problema a clasificarii unor opinii in categoria stirilor, opinii care, in functie de numarul hater-ilor, postacilor si troll-ilor deranjati de acestea, precum si de numarul celor de buna credinta care se lasa dusi de valul acestor resentimente, pot deveni fake news.
Ca sa va dati seama de pericolul acestui trend de condamnare a opiniei si a ideilor, imaginati-va ca o carte sau un numar al unui ziar deranjeaza un puternic al zilei, iar acesta, cu banii de care dispune, cumpara si arde tot tirajul cartii sau al ziarului, pentru a nu mai ajunge la cunostinta publicului. Sau puneti in locul acestor puternici ai zilei un regim cripto-comunist sau proto-nazist. Cum v-ati raporta fata de asemenea practici totalitare? V-ati simti lipsiti de dreptul la opinie si informatie? V-ati simti tineri, liberi si frumosi? Ati rezista?
Exact asta se intampla si cu opinia pusa in spatiul virtual. Opinia ocultata prin instituirea acestui minister al adevarului nu mai ajunge la destinatari, nu se mai raspandeste pe net, iar de aici si pana la autocratie distopica nu mai e decat un pas.
Nu confundati informatia cu opinia.
Nu ocultati dreptul la libera exprimare.

1 Hacker Way Menlo Park,
CA 94025
Dear Madams/Sirs,
The undersigned, Gheorghe Piperea, with mailing address in Romania, Bucharest, Splaiul Unirii, boulevard no. 223, 3rd district, 3rd floor, e-mail address, tel. +40 372 766 012,
I am hereby writing in connection with Facebook’s recently implemented policy concerning fake news reporting. The fake news reporting policy and the procedure used by Facebook in order to implement it are violating several rights duly recognized worldwide.
Each user’s option to hide future posts from a particular person or page or to permanently block them is the respective person’s individual option. However, stopping certain information from spreading by Facebook itself may lead to violation of several rights.
As stated, Facebook is trying to rebut misinformation, declaring promotion of accurate information to be its goal. Mr. Mark Zuckerberg himself has mentioned that “historically, we have relied on our community to help us understand what is fake and what is not. Anyone on Facebook can report any link as false, and we use signals from those reports […] to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation. […], we penalize this content in News Feed so it's much less likely to spread.”
In the same announcement, Mr. Zuckerberg made statements which reveal the fact that he himself noticed the problematic aspects of the policy. “We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”
In fact, each strategic point on which the company relies in order to rebut alleged fake news poses serious problems:
- Stronger detection. Facebook’s representative declared that the most important thing that could be done is improve the ability to classify misinformation. This means, in the view of the company, better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves. However, what certain people find to be fake information may not necessarily represent indeed fake information. The company’s policy is thus dependent on the arbitrariness of certain users.
- Easy reporting. Facebook’s CEO stated that it was their goal to make it much easier for people to report stories as fake and they appreciate that this will help the company catch more misinformation faster. It follows clearly that the result of what shall be classified as fake information shall be dependent on the number of people who decide to report.
- Third party verification. Mr. Zuckerberg stated that if fact checking organizations determined the story to be fake, this would be marked as false and users seeing it in their feeds would be warned about its doubted authenticity. It would also be blocked from being promoted in users' feeds. Facebook is confident that there are many respected fact checking organizations.
First of all, the criteria on the basis of which an organization establishes the truth are questionable. Also there are doubts that the fact checking organizations, that are supposed to determine whether a story is fake or not are indeed independent. This worry has been expressed as well in the German media with regard to local fact checking organizations.
On the other hand, in certain countries, such as the country where I live, it is difficult to identify what Facebook called “respected fact checking organizations”. Therefore, the risk is imminent that doubtful organizations arrogate themselves the title of fact checking organizations.
- Warnings. Facebook declared that it was exploring labeling stories that had been flagged as false by third parties or the community, and showing warnings when people read or share them. This practice may discredit information which is true in reality.
- Disrupting fake news economics. Facebook’s Chairman worries that a lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam. However, the company’s policy intended to rebut this phenomenon may thrust certain parties into competitive disadvantage, which poses issues of unfair competition.
As results from the above, the policy whereby Facebook intends to rebut fake news poses serious legal problems. It violates intellectual property rights, freedom of speech and it creates competitive disadvantage to certain users.
Facebook promotes itself as being committed to helping people and organizations protect their intellectual property rights. Amongst the moral intellectual property rights lies the right of the author to decide if and when his work is made known to the public. Facebook, committed itself to being a platform on which users may freely make known to the public certain materials, including works protected by intellectual property rights. Any action, whereby certain materials are restricted form being promoted in the same way as others, is discriminatory in itself and constitutes violation of intellectual property rights.
Moreover, Facebook’s procedures intended to rebut fake news applies without distinguishing between factual data and opinions. Whereas facts may be true or false, the censorship of opinions leads to dangerous violation of freedom of speech. Opinions may not be classified as being true or fake. Even more worrying is the fact that such classifications are currently being made on the basis of the arbitrariness of certain Facebook users or third parties.
The fake news policy risks to turn Facebook from a platform dedicated for people to express themselves freely into a censorship mechanism. I shall give a very illustrative example which shows the dangers of this policy. Facebook’s policy of restricting the distribution of materials uploaded by certain users is similar to the case when a publishing house would collect the works of a certain author and then decide to ban the distribution thereof, or even worse, to destroy the books thus collected. Of course, such practices remind us of undemocratic regimes and Facebook would surely want to avoid any such comparison.
In addition, the wrongful use of the fake news black listing mechanism, as well as the wrongful flagging as false of certain materials posted on Facebook, may constitute disparaging publicity and may thus be used as a means of promoting unfair competition.
The violation of the rights mentioned above holds Facebook liable for the damages caused to the users whose rights were violated.
Yours sincerely,
Gheorghe Piperea"

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